UK sharia courts condone forced marriage and ignore violence against women

There is “no particular age” for a girl to marry – “normally the younger the better.” “In some societies, 12 or 13-year-old women, girls, they are more or less fully fledged women.”

When it comes to inheritance, “We are very happy to give the woman half and the man double because I think this is a very fair way of dealing with the situation.”

“a man should not be questioned why he hit his wife because this is something between them ”.

These are just a few of the quotes featured in today’s Sunday Times from sharia court clerics interviewed by political scientist Elham Manea for her forthcoming book  Women and Sharia Law: The Impact of Legal Pluralism in the UK. Following a four-year investigation into around 80 Islamic ‘councils’, Manea’s work reveals that the Islamic law practiced by some sharia courts in Britain is more “extreme and old-fashioned” than in Pakistan. Many clerics “condone wife-beating, ignore marital rape and allow a father to annul his daughter’s marriage if he dislikes her choice of groom.” A number of clerics also believed that ‘some offenders should have their hands chopped off as “corporal punishment”.

This comes as no surprise to me, and the quote on domestic violence above packs a particular sting. When I sat shaking uncontrollably as a terrified young child after witnessing my mother being dragged by her hair from one room to another and beaten to the ground, I was told by a male relative that what I had seen “was none of my business” and that I had no right to be upset by “what goes on a between a man and his wife.” I know that the local maulvi would have echoed this sentiment.

Manea’s research confirms what women’s rights campaigners have been highlighting for a long time: British Muslim women are being discriminated against through patriarchal alternative justice systems that constrain them to lives of abuse and oppression. In December last year, a joint statement from the One Law for All campaign, Southall Black Sisters, Centre for Secular Space, IKWRO and others was delivered to 10 Downing Street, calling for a government inquiry into sharia courts in Britain.  The statement was signed by almost 400 organisational representatives and individuals, including myself. On 30 April 2016, Manea will speak about the findings in her book at a day conference in London on sharia law and the need to dismantle parallel legal systems.  Maryam Namazie, Gita Sahgal and Pragna Patel will also speak at the event. For more information please email





Shaheen Hashmat

Shaheen Hashmat

Shaheen Hashmat is a Scottish Pakistani writer and campaigner, and the founder of Double Bind. Having escaped the threat of forced marriage 20 years ago when she was 12 years old, Shaheen now spends much of her time highlighting the long-term recovery needs of those affected by forced marriage and ‘honour’-related abuse, focusing specifically on the need for urgent improvement of mental health services. She occasionally writes for Telegraph Wonder Women and the New Statesman, and has also appeared on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, BBC Asian Network, Reuters, Stella Magazine and the Scottish Sunday Mail. She is also winner of the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation's 'True Honour' Award 2016. By promoting the voices of other women from a Muslim background, Shaheen hopes to play her part in addressing some of the most urgent issues concerning our generation today. You can follow her on Twitter @tartantantrum, and on her personal blog -

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